Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rainbow Web 2 Review

Rainbow Web 2, developed and published by Sugar Games.
The Good: Unique and challenging take on match three gameplay, removing letters gives you an objective, hints can be shown automatically, a mixture of web shapes and patterns, occasional mini-games, good amount of content, for Windows and Mac
The Not So Good: Little change to the basic gameplay, no alternative play modes other than the story
What say you? A well-designed match three puzzle game: 6/8

With this whole debate about the future of PC gaming going on across message board everywhere, casual games have gotten much more attention recently. I’ve always given them their due on this site: since they are games on the PC, they qualify as PC games. The casual games can be broken down into several genres, and one of those classifications is the match three game. At this point, it takes a pretty novel approach to make a game in this genre stand out, since the basic gameplay has been the same for years. The next entrant into the fray is Rainbow Web 2, a sequel (as indicated by the “2”) where you must match three on a web. Does this title stand out against the crowd?

While the general presentation of Rainbow Web 2 is nothing spectacular, there are a couple of touches that make it stand out. The puzzle boards themselves are basic, but the backgrounds are highly detailed and look very nice. They are not animated, but they do put you into the game world adequately. The special effects are minimal, only coming when you make matches, but overall the graphics are decent for what you would expect in the genre. The sound design is average, with aural indications of making matches, but the background music is pleasing and fits the theme of the game well. While there isn’t much to say about the graphics and sound in Rainbow Web 2, the backgrounds of each aspect of the game elevate the overall presentation slightly past average.

Rainbow Web 2 features both timed and untimed story modes where you must defeat an evil spider who has taken over a castle. Apparently, he is a big fan of match three games, as you must successfully complete over 80 levels in order to restore order. This is a good amount of content: each level takes about three minutes (on average) to complete, so we’re looking at about four hours to chug through the entire, which is not bad for a puzzle game. The story mode, beside the basic match three gameplay, also includes picture swapping and hidden object mini-games to spice up the action. These aren’t necessarily difficult, although the hidden object games match the background a bit too well, requiring extensive use of the hint system. Still, it’s nice to be doing something else every once in a while, so the mini-games are a welcome change of pace in Rainbow Web 2.

Your objective isn’t simply to make a lot of matches and get a minimum score. You must remove lettered tiles from the board in order to complete a phrase and move along to the next puzzle. This is a great feature that ups the strategic ante, letting you focus on specific parts of the board instead of mindlessly getting matches anywhere. Rainbow Web 2 comes with seven different web shapes, which adds a bit of variety on its own, and occasionally web connections get removed for even more challenge. And you know the developers stick those lettered tiles in the most remote reaches of the board. Playing the game is very simple: point and click. If you get stuck, the game will subtly highlight a move that will result in a match (you can turn this option off): a nice feature. There really isn’t any difference between timed and untimed modes, since time rarely becomes an issue as long as you focus on removing the letters. The basic gameplay remains the same from the first level to the last: there are no power-ups to use, but non-removable black circles and additional colors to make their appearances along the way. Rainbow Web 2 offers a good amount of challenge thanks to its unique board design and focus on specific tiles. The game takes the usual match three game and tweaks the formula enough to create a fairly distinctive experience.

Rainbow Web 2 feels about as fresh and original as a match three game could. The board arrangement is unique, and the removal of available paths makes the game challenging. There is only the story mode to play and the basics of the gameplay don’t change much, but if you like this kind of game, then you will like this game. The graphics and sound aren’t spectacular, but the background elements are well done. The hint system removes the frustration of getting stuck, and the mini-games offer up a nice change of pace. Rainbow Web 2 is also available for both Windows and Mac, so our “too cool” friends on those Apple-shaped machines can enjoy some match three action as well. While Rainbow Web 2 clearly won’t appeal to people who don’t like match three games, it is one of the better titles in the genre, so fans of these puzzle games should definitely check it out.